Friday, August 2, 2019

Examining the Officer's Covenant of the Salvation Army

The views on this post do not necessarily constitute the official positions of the Salvation Army or it's affiliates, the views given are solely of those making them. 

to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
as an officer of The Salvation Army


to love and serve him supremely all my days,

to live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life,

to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends,

to maintain the doctrines and principles of The Salvation Army, and, by God’s grace to prove myself a worthy officer.

Done in the strength of my Lord and Saviour, and in the presence of the Territorial Commander, training college officers and fellow cadets."

Part of becoming a minister in the Salvation Army is entering into a covenant, a binding agreement, that constitutes a fundamental shift in life mission.  This lifestyle agreement is a declaration of devotion, love, service, and proclamation.  

The very first three words are foundational: "Called by God."  If I'm not called by God to be an officer, then I'm little more than a fraud and a liar.  And I will be found out, it's only a matter of time.  This is a calling, nothing less.  No one who is not called will survive it.  

Called by God, to what?  Called to proclaim the gospel, as an officer.  What is first in the calling by God?  It is to proclaim God, Jesus Christ, the living gospel.  

It continues saying, "I bind myself to Him..." This tells me that I've bound myself, not to the Salvation Army, not to a human authority, but bound to God almighty.  And if I start to think I'm doing it for the SA, then I'm in trouble.  I'm not here to make TSA look good, or build up the SA brand, or make the SA more relevant in society.  No.  I'm bound to Jesus Christ, to proclaim the gospel, and to give glory, honor, and praise to Jesus Christ.  Many times we hear about the good things "The Salvation Army" is doing. But I don't think that's quite right.  We need to give proper glory to Jesus Christ.  Do we pretend to be a secular social services group when it suites us?  No, I will openly glorify Christ first.  

Doing the most good is the catch phrase, soon coming to it's conclusion.  How about next: For the glory of God!  Or all for Jesus Christ! I've no interest in hiding the name of Christ to appease big donors.  And nothing good can come from that. 

It continues, "To love and serve Him supremely..."  I love how the covenant gets the order right.  One might be tempted to put the proclamation of the gospel first.  But that wouldn't be correct.  Loving relational and practical service to God is the order of things.  God first.  Love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  And love your neighbor as yourself.

"To live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life."

Called to give out social services?  Called to administer good programs?  Called to take statistics?  Called to push paper?  No, called to live to win souls.  That's strong language right there.  And it gets even stronger: Make their salvation the first purpose!  First purpose, that's saying it's the number one priority in ministry work.  

I didn't get called primarily to meet temporal needs, though I will do that joyously.  I didn't get called primarily to do budgets, manage staff, and administrate a building, but I will do that.  No, I was called first and chiefly to win souls to Christ.  Don't get me wrong, meeting needs is vital, biblical, and essential!  It is a great blessing and a command of Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:31-46).  

But my key business is soul winning. Yet not me alone.  If I were to prop myself up, as the single, one man army of winning souls, with all the soldiers and adherents as my faithful audience, that would be foolishness.  No, instead my goal as an officer is to empower soldiers, adherents, and everybody in the room, man, woman, and child to live a lifestyle of persistent gospel proclamation.  

Sadly I often hear excuses people make to not be soul winners: "Well, I want to show them by my lifestyle." Well, that's good.  But at some point you have to get to the gospel, tell them about Jesus.

"Well, it's more about relationships, you can't just walk up to strangers."  Relationship evangelism is a great thing.  But tell me, how many relationships do you have with non-believers? If not many, then it's just a catch phrase, it's not a real thing.  In my life I've had several strangers come up to me and talk to me about Jesus.  It was almost always a positive experience for me.  Don't under-estimate the power of the gospel.  But maybe it's not that it doesn't work, it's that we're afraid to try and do it.  Because we might get rejected.  

"Well, I wait for people to ask me why my life is so different."  I'm sure you probably do live a good Christian life. But honestly, how many people in the last year have asked you why your different?  For me, I can't think of any.  If we aren't active, seeking out, and intention with evangelism, it won't happen at all.  We as humans tend toward laziness, it's just a fact. So we have to be careful to stay active in the abundant harvest.

Every generation before ours recognized their requirement of evangelizing the lost and carrying the gospel to the world, and our generation, I believe, will rise up to carry the gospel to this generation. And maybe not in the most conventional means! Think outside the box.  How can we reach people where they are?  We will innovate, and carry the gospel, I really do believe that. 

"to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends."

There is definitely a great and mighty place for mercy ministry!  The ministries of Matthew 25:31-46, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner and the orphan, and provide housing for those who are homeless. These things are a beauty to behold!

Social services, feeding programs, clothing, shelters, visiting prisoners, and so on and so forth.  We get this right in the Salvation Army usually.  As long as it stays in the proper order, as secondary to the gospel, then we're on the right track.  The Salvation Army is always best when the mission is fully integrated, a union of gospel and social work, where they are intertwined and folded into each other.  But if this ministry work takes over and overshadows evangelism, then we're getting off mission.  In fact William Booth was worried later in his life, that the social services work of the SA was taking over, and he began traveling and doing open air meetings and preaching to crowds to try to counter-balance that equation. 

"to maintain the doctrines and principles of The Salvation Army..."

This is a very important factor in the ministry work of TSA.  Officership isn't about coming in and changing TSA to suit our personal viewpoints or ideas.  SA has 11 doctrines, that are well stated, and accurately depict the truth. We have an amazing mission statement that I truly love.  We have various definitions in our mission statement, and doctrines, that tell us who we are, and what our place is within the global body of Christ (the church). We have a mission statement that says we're called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs without discrimination. We have doctrines that tell us we consider scripture the authority over our lives, that Jesus Christ is our savior, that our God is a trinity, that holiness is vital to the Christian life, and a day of judgment and accountability will come.

We have important theological beliefs, theological positions that help us exegete the scriptures accurately, which flows into our sharing the love of Jesus, and the truth of his word.  We're a holiness movement, based on biblical theology, a theology of grace through faith in Jesus Christ and a high regard for the 66 books of the Bible.  

There are core doctrines and principles of the Salvation Army that have endured since the very beginning of the movement, and indeed, principles and theology that have endured since the times of the early church in the first century A.D.  If I'm called to be an officer, it's part of my sacred duty to uphold the principles and doctrines of the Salvation Army, even if my personal feelings might digress at times from stated positions.  I take that responsibility very seriously.  

Sadly, a few, in the recent past have tried to play god, and redefine truth and God's word to suit their own desires, feelings, and opinions.  But we are grateful that God upholds His army, and guides us in all the paths of righteousness, delivering us from all evil, and blessing us to be true to the scriptures and true to our savior Jesus Christ.

" God’s grace to prove myself a worthy officer."

There is no way I can possibly do this.  It's way too much.  The work is too hard.  The stresses too high.  The sorrows too painful.  That's exactly the point though.  I can't do it.  But by God's grace, which is active in my life, it will all be done.  Sin will be overcome.  Lives will be changed.  Souls will be saved.  People will be served.  And it will all come together beautifully, not by my strength, not by human effort, but by the grace of God.  God does his work in clay pots, you and me.  God does holy, beautiful, mighty deeds that transform the face of the Earth, and he does these incredible wonders, these mighty spiritual mysteries through even simple, limited people like you and me.  Isn't that amazing?  It truly is.    

Done in the strength of my Lord and Saviour, and in the presence of the Territorial Commander, training college officers and fellow cadets."

If we try to do ministry in our own strength, forsaking prayer and pressing forward in manic-like workaholism, we will be busy much, but will affect little change.  But if we go out prayerfully, fasting, seeking His face, searching diligently for His will in the work of the army, then we will be vessels for His kingdom proclamation to fly out across the face of the Earth.  Two options are available, foolish self-effort, and prayerful God-seeking powerhouse Christianity.  As for me, I'll take the strength given by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, because I know I'm in great need of it. And when that day comes, I'll do it before the presence of my leaders, and fellow soldiers and warriors in the mighty army of God that is called the Salvation Army! I see a mighty army before me, a great cloud of witnesses past and present from the history of this army bidding me to come and die, bidding me to fight the good fight, bidding me to make war on the gates of hell and darkness, and by God's grace, and in the strength of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is my great high commander, I will discharge my duties, and make war on hell, and lead the lost multitudes to the open side of my savior, who pours out His love and truth and grace and mighty power into an army of God challenging the darkness in these last days.